Trader Joe’s Practices Harm People and the Planet
Trader Joe's has a bad history of leaking dangerous climate pollutants and not disclosing the labor practices in its chocolate supply chains. And the company doesn’t even report how it plans to address these serious issues.
That’s why Green America and the Environmental Investigation Agency have teamed up to hold Trader Joe’s accountable.
We’re telling Trader Joe’s to stop emitting climate-damaging refrigerant gases in all stores and to support efforts to end child labor in its Trader Joe's chocolate.
And we’re urging the company to up its transparency across the board.
Trader Joe's Damage to the Climate
Trader Joe’s refrigeration is leaking super-pollutant gases that accelerate the climate crisis. It received the lowest score on the Environmental Investigation Agency’s Climate-Friendly Supermarket Scorecard.
In 2016, Trader Joe’s settled with the US EPA and DOJ for violating the Clean Air Act by leaking refrigerants. But there’s no sign that Trader Joe’s has made progress to reduce leak rates or adopt sustainable, climate-friendly refrigerants.
Refrigerants are a major source of climate-damaging emissions. Refrigerant leaks from US supermarkets alone emit 45 million tons of greenhouse gases every year - the equivalent of 9.5 million cars on the road.
Is there Child Labor in Trader Joe's Chocolate?
As for labor, Trader Joe’s received one of the worst scores on Green America’s retailer chocolate scorecard; the company shares very little about what it’s doing to address child labor in its supply chains or rampant deforestation that is caused by the chocolate it profits off.
There are over one million children in West Africa experiencing child labor in cocoa growing; 24% of child laborers are exposed to harmful pesticides that jeopardize their health and the environment; cocoa farmers make less than $1 per day.
It is unacceptable for any company profiting off chocolate to not have a publicly available plan to end child labor and injustices in the chocolate supply chain!
Holding Trader Joe's Accountable
While refrigerants and cocoa sourcing are quite different issues, Trader Joe's inaction on both shows an inexcusable and troubling disregard for people and the planet.
Most companies are becoming MORE transparent, but Trader Joe’s shares next to no information with the public about its sourcing and operations.
Some of the largest and smallest supermarkets provide greater disclosure than Trader Joe’s – leaving no excuse for Trader Joe’s lack of transparency.
Climate & Refrigerants:
- Submit annual greenhouse gas emission data, including hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions, to the Carbon Disclosure Project & share science-based targets to reach carbon neutral operations.
- Commit to achieving a companywide average refrigerant leak rate below 10%and report annual progress on a public platform.
- Commit to phase out HFCs from all operations & facilities by 2030 & set measurable interim targets to achieve this goal.
- Commit to installing only HFC-free systems in all new stores, facilities, or major retrofits using only ultra-low GWP refrigerants.
- Issue a detailed annual sustainability report listing progress on the above goals & other methods to increase energy efficiency and reduce the overall climate impact of Trader Joe’s refrigeration systems
Labor & Cocoa:
- Increased transparency; publicly disclose the first and second tiers of its chocolate supply chain.
- Require all cocoa suppliers sourcing out of West Africa to be using a Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS).
- Issue an annual sustainability report (not a blog post), describing how it is supporting a sustainable chocolate industry and what indicators are used to measure success of their efforts.
- Increase compensation for cocoa farmers and disclose how Trader Joe’s is supporting efforts to pay cocoa farmers a living income.
- Support the call for US and EU mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence regulation.
- Commit to no deforestation by 2022 throughout the entire supply chain and develop a robust agroforestry policy, particularly for those areas deforested due to industry practices, including where cocoa is grown in West Africa.
- Respect all workers’ rights from those in your stores to those at the end of the supply chain. This includes stopping any anti-union behavior or union busting. Ensure all workers in the supply chain have proper PPE, hazard pay, and paid sick leave in the time of COVID-19 and thereafter.
A typical supermarket consumes 4,000 pounds of refrigerants each year, with one quarter of these greenhouse gases leaking out of the massive and often faulty systems.
These gases, called hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, have thousands of times the global warming power of CO2. Refrigerant leaks from US supermarkets emit 45 million metric tons of greenhouse gases every year – the equivalent of 9.5 million cars on the road. On top of that, supermarkets use a lot of energy, up to 60 percent of which comes from their cooling and heating systems which when leaking refrigerants are even less efficient.
In 2016, Trader Joe’s entered a settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding violations of the Clean Air Act for emitting high global warming potential (GWP) and ozone-depleting refrigerants. The company was tasked with reducing its emissions, creating a better process to repair refrigerant leaks, and using refrigerants with an ultra-low global warming potential (GWP) in several stores.
More recently, Trader Joe’s received the lowest score on EIA’s Climate-Friendly Supermarket Scorecard, which assessed the company on its actions (or lack thereof!) to reduce the use and emission of HFCs.
Still, there’s no sign of Trader Joe’s progress to reduce leak rates or adopt sustainable, climate-friendly refrigerants. Trader Joe's doesn't publicly report its climate emissions, as many other large companies do to show progress towards commitments.
We need to hold companies accountable for their emissions that drive the climate crisis. Rising global temperatures and the devastation of communities by more powerful storms and fires around the world show that there’s no time to wait – companies like Trader Joe’s must eliminate their use of dangerous greenhouse gases.
Retailers make millions of dollars on chocolate sales, while cocoa farmers make less $1 day. The unfair division of chocolate profits must change. Farmers need to be paid more, or we have no hope of ending child labor in the cocoa industry.
Children deserve the opportunity to enjoy their childhood and attend school. Putting profits over the well-being of children, regardless of where they live, is unacceptable!
Trader Joe's needs to demonstrate that it is taking action to protect the people impacted by their products, including helping end child labor in the chocolate industry.
One result of consumer, civil society, and government pressure on the chocolate industry is that big chocolate brands have developed sustainability initiatives. This pressure has led to greater transparency about what chocolate brands are doing to address social and environmental harms, including child labor and deforestation. However, Trader Joe’s is far behind on transparency – disclosing next to no information about how it’s addressing child labor in the chocolate from which the company profits.
Our Chocolate Retailer Scorecard ranks the leading US grocery stores and pharmacies on efforts to address child labor in cocoa.
Check out our End Child Labor in Cocoa Campaign to learn more!
- Sign and share our petition telling Trader Joe’s to increase transparency and only use practices that are sustainable and just for people and the planet.
- Contact Trader Joe's directly and ask them to be more transparent, address child labor in cocoa, and cut their emissions.
- Investigate your local store's refrigerants in four quick steps.
- Shop from small, ethical chocolate brands prioritizing people and the planet.
- Tell the world's largest chocolate companies to step it up on addressing child labor, deforestation, farmer poverty, and rapidly reducing pesticide usages.